Last November the presentation of the book took place coordinated by Francisco Bolívar Zapata "Transgenic Foods, Great Benefits, Absence of Harm and Myths", published by the Mexican Academy of Sciences, the National College and the UNAM.
Given the commotion that this publication caused and the debates that it began to provoke from the day of its presentation; Combined by the official endorsement of the institutions mentioned above, it was necessary and essential to give an open, public and plural debate. I announced my intention of organizing it in an article published in these pages on November 24, 2017 (see here) and it was finally held at UNAM from April 11 to 13, with very successful results.
One of the central and obligatory points in the debate was the examination of the book mentioned in the preceding paragraph. The disappointment that one takes when reading it is capital. Behind the lavish presentation and carefully crafted illustrations, you find text that leaves a lot to be desired, especially considering its high claims.
It is difficult to cover the main shortcomings of this publication in the short space of an article like this, but we could at least point out the following:
1. Ignorance of the theory of evolution. It begins by affirming falsehoods, such as that, according to Darwin, all living beings have a common origin, and illustrating this with an anthropocentric, linear and unidirectional image of evolution, contrary in every way to Darwinian conceptions based on the principle of divergence of characters and that defend, as it has been proven, a non-linear arborescent dynamic.
2. The false dilemma arises that in the whole world there are only two forms of agricultural production: that based on toxic agrochemicals and that based on transgenics and that to avoid the massive use of the former it is essential to resort to the latter. This is false. To begin with, agricultural production based on GMOs does use agrochemicals, but it is also known that throughout the world there are numerous forms of agricultural production that do not use GMOs or agrochemicals. For tens of thousands of years, humans developed agriculture in the absence of each other and there is no reason why they should not continue to do so. To hold that false dilemma is to tell lies.
3. The logical fallacies used in the book run through it from beginning to end, the main one being the argumentad verecundiam, which consists in affirming that the word of an expert has to be taken as truth simply because it is said by a specialist; that there is no right of reply or of doubt, that the truth value of the statements of the experts comes from that condition, not from the argument itself or from its contrast with reality. Dr. Bolívar Zapata's book continually alludes to this fact: The defenders of transgenic foods are great experts, world-famous, members of academies or associations of the most prestigious in the world, Nobel laureates, national prizes, and so on. The arguments as to why these people position themselves in favor of GM foods are never put forward, most likely because they themselves only use their position of power to impose opinions.
4. The much-mentioned book presents a closed and dogmatized image of science; prepared only by experts, in which they always agree on what they say and do not allow room for doubt or dissent. Thus, the concepts of safety, evidence, proof and predictability, in the debate on transgenic foods, can only be elaborated and imposed by those who agree with the production and commercialization of the same.
At the height of arrogance, the book affirms that absolutely all the studies that show the safety of these foods are correctly prepared and not a single one of those that have claimed to show damage to health or the environment have the scientific level to achieve it , that is, they are false. All, 100 percent reason for Bolívar Zapata and collaborators, zero percent reason for his critics.
There are other very poorly exposed arguments in this book, such as those referring to horizontal gene transfer or the Seralini case and his experiments with rats fed transgenic corn. Let's hope we will deal with them in a future article. For the moment it is enough to point out that such a narrow and false conception of science, such as the one presented in the book coordinated by Dr. Bolívar, makes dialogue with those who challenge it impossible.
ByJulio Muñoz Rubio - Researcher from UNAM, member of UCCS
Source: La Jornada